Winding down summer with travel

  By Dr. Nick Jansson Grandparents Day. It’s that time in September when we make a special effort to thank and appreciate our grandparents for all the wisdom and love they have shown us over the years!  An important way in which we can show love for our grandparents is to make sure they are prepared for any travel plans we may have with them. Even though we are wrapping up the summer, preparation for travel with older adults is important to review year-round. The following tips are not only for seniors but also for family members and caregivers who may be traveling with them. Medicines: Many older adults take several medications. In addition to bringing a supply to last the trip, carrying an extra two weeks of medicine isn’t a bad idea in case plans change. This especially becomes important for cruising. If you’re on land but are out of your city or state, emergency supplies of prescriptions can be transferred from pharmacy to pharmacy. However, this becomes very difficult if you’re at sea! In addition to daily medicines, bring important medicines that you may take only as needed — but could be potentially life-saving — regardless of trip length or destination. These would include medicines such as nitroglycerin (for chest pain), asthma inhalers, extra insulin or portable oxygen. Assistive devices: Make sure to have a standard or folding cane, walking stick or walker for trips that involve prolonged walking or standing, particularly if it is something an individual usually uses for routine walking. This is especially important if the individual has issues with balance. Importance of ambulation: When taking long car or plane rides, it is especially important for seniors to ambulate at least once every one to two hours. It is not only good for individuals who may have arthritis to get up and stretch, but it’s good for preventing a type of blood clot in the legs called deep venous thrombosis (DVT). This clot can form when blood doesn’t get pumped up from the legs to the heart as well as when leg muscles are not working as much during rest. This can lead to stasis of blood and clotting. The most concerning aspect of blood clots in the leg is that they can travel to the lungs and cause blockage of blood flow and even death in extreme cases. If it is difficult to ambulate, doing leg exercises in the car or plane can also serve to move the blood in the legs. Flexing and extending the calf muscles by pointing toes upward with the heels on the ground (dorsiflexion) or moving heels up off the ground with the toes still planted (plantar flexion) can help contract and stretch calf muscles to move blood if ambulation is difficult. Other preventative measures such as wearing compression stockings and staying well hydrated are very helpful in preventing blood clots. Lists:  A list of medicines, medical conditions, allergies, surgeries, advanced directives and physicians that the individual sees is very important to have on hand at all times in times of medical care or emergency. This list can be typed or written and kept in a purse or wallet. Hospital/Ambulatory care centers: It is a good idea to know of nearby hospitals, urgent care centers or other forms of ambulatory care centers in the area of your travel. Keep these basic necessities in mind as you prepare your loved ones for travel. Many of these suggestions will help make travel much easier, safer and potentially life-saving for our senior family members! Dr. Nicholas Jansson is a board certified Internal Medicine physician practicing at Franciscan Medical Clinic – Seahurst in Burien, WA. He did his residency at the University of Connecticut, medical school at Ross University School of Medicine, and undergraduate studies at the University of Washington.